Much about the Warriors is defined by their proud history of attacking players but departing utility Thomas Leuluai will long be remembered as one of the club's toughest competitors.

The Warriors have always possessed a wealth of homegrown talent, boasting a seemingly endless list of individually brilliant players, but for much of their 21-year history have found locally produced hard-nosed professionals harder to come by.

In the same manner as former club captain Simon Mannering, Leuluai has filled that role, particularly throughout his second stint which began in 2013 following eight seasons in the English Super League.

The 31-year-old may have been limited to just 77 Warriors appearances in comparison to the 250 game veteran, but his influence and experience will be sorely missed when he exits at the end of the NRL season, after being granted a release from the last year of his contract on compassionate grounds to make a return to England.

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Leuluai celebrates the Kiwis 2008 World Cup final win over Australia with teammates Greg Eastwood, Benji Marshall and Issac Luke. Photo / Getty Images
Leuluai celebrates the Kiwis 2008 World Cup final win over Australia with teammates Greg Eastwood, Benji Marshall and Issac Luke. Photo / Getty Images

The former Mt Albert Grammar student has shown tremendous resilience to overcome a season-ending ACL injury that limited him to just 10 games last year. After returning in the round six defeat to Manly, he has quickly returned to top form and played a big part in the Warriors mid-season revival.

Playing alongside star playmaker Shaun Johnson, Leuluai offers contrasting skills that are no less important to the side's expansive attack and key to enabling and enhancing the No7's devastating running game.

Everything about the versatile Kiwis international's play is direct and physical. His ability to square-up the Warriors attack isolates defenders and helps provide Johnson with the time and space to operate at his best.

He might not feature on the highlights reels as frequently as his halves partner, but Leuluai's strength and dogged approach was typified when he muscled his way over to score a much-needed try in the second-half of last week's golden point defeat to Cronulla.

Similarly effective on defence, he is a rock on the Warriors left edge, while some of his best performances at club and test level have been closer around the ruck in the grittier No9 role.

His absence will be adequately filled with 21-year-old playmaker Tui Lolohea and 20-year-old hooker Nathaniel Roache set to enjoy increased roles in the coming seasons, and his calming presence and durability has no doubt assisted both player's footballing development and education.

A young Leuluai is tackled by Kangaroos forward Willie Mason during a 16-16 draw at North Harbour Stadium in 2004. Photo / New Zealand Herald Dean Purcell
A young Leuluai is tackled by Kangaroos forward Willie Mason during a 16-16 draw at North Harbour Stadium in 2004. Photo / New Zealand Herald Dean Purcell

The arrival at the club this season of former South Sydney premiership winner Issac Luke ensures the Warriors have another seasoned campaigner to help steer the ship, but Leuluai's commitment and game management will be missed.

He will also be remembered as the second youngest NRL debutant in the Warriors' history, after making his debut against the Bulldogs six weeks shy of his 18th birthday in 2003.

Saturday's gritty 27-18 win over the Gold Coast was his 304th first-grade appearance overall following 189 games for Wigan from 2007-2012 and 38 for the London Broncos/Harlequins from 2005-2006.

Since debuting for the Kiwis in 2003, he has been a favourite of New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, and the 2008 World Cup winner may get the chance to add to his 34 tests in the end of year Four Nations tournament in England.